New Study Strengthens Link Between Zika Virus And Microcephaly In Babies


Most people who are infected with the mosquito-borne virus have no symptoms. But scientists are alarmed by indications that when it infects a pregnant woman, her baby may be born with a small head and a brain that hasn’t developed properly.

“Zika virus has been found in the brains of aborted babies with small heads”, said Guo-Li Ming, Johns Hopkins University neurology professor.
“This is a first step, and there’s a lot more that needs to be done”, said Mr. Song, a neuroscientist and stem cell biologist.
The Zika Virus can attack tissues in developing fetal brains, regardless of when during pregnancy the infection occurs, a new study found. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika outbreak, which has spread in Latin America and in Caribbean nations, an worldwide health emergency on February 1. Numerous infected cells died, and others showed disruption that could limit their ability to divide and flourish.
The study involved 88 pregnant women in Brazil. They found 29 percent of the fetuses had some sort of problem, from brain damage to damage to the placenta. The non-infected women all had normal ultrasounds.
Using specific, known types of cells allowed the researchers to see where the developing brain is most vulnerable, Song says.
Nielsen was surprised that even women infected during their third trimester experienced serious outcomes, including stillbirths and one baby at 40 weeks who had no amniotic fluid.
Six of the women have given birth at the time of publication.
FILE – Caio Julio Vasconcelos, who was born with microcephaly, undergoes physical therapy at the Institute for the Blind in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, Feb. 25, 2016. Two of the infants had lesions in their eyes, which could indicate blindness.
Dr. Christopher M. Zahn of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists told the Associated press that there are still, unfortunately, “many unanswered questions”.
As of Tuesday, the CDC reported there have been 153 cases of Zika virus infection in 28 states (not including Missouri) and the District of Columbia linked to travel in areas where Zika is being spread.
The Zika virus may infect and kill a type of brain cell that is crucial for brain development, according to a new study done in human cells growing in lab dishes.
“This study is just the beginning, and many more studies are needed to understand the relationship between Zika and microcephaly“, said Amelia Pinto, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Saint Louis University. There’s also no evidence that the cells are employing antiviral responses, which means we don’t know whether or how the virus is being cleared from the precursor cells.
Results of the experiments, conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Florida State University, and Emory University, are described online March 4 in the journal Cell Stem Cell.